Jacoby Ellsbury’s Lost 2012 Season Puts Pressure On Outfielder to Show Consistency in 2013

Jacoby Ellsbury's Lost 2012 Season Puts Pressure On Outfielder to Show Consistency in 2013Free agency is about to start and the Red Sox are expected to be major players.

Unlike last season, when the organization was financially strapped, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has the flexibility to add the quality players needed to improve the club.

Before the negotiations get serious, let's take a look at this week's mailbag.

Kind of curious about your article regarding Jacoby Ellsbury. Yes, we all know what happened to him in 2010 — he was mashed by Adrian Beltre (unintentionally, of course). As a trainer, I knew immediately that he was gone for the season. This year, his shoulder was totally messed up by "forget-his-name" dropping his full weight on Ells in the collision at second base. These were two very major injuries. Without those occurring, I think Ells would have had more consistency that looked like last year. Why do you play up his inconsistency instead of getting how serious these injuries were? Thanks. Enjoy your articles, otherwise.
–Lizbeth Glickman, Waltham

Great question and,
for the record, Ellsbury collided with Tampa Bay's Reid Brignac at second base.

While the shoulder
injury sidelined Ellsbury for three months, he had the opportunity to rebound
and carry the Red Sox in the second half of the season. But Ellsbury never
found his stride in 74 games, finishing with a .271 batting average.

Rust and timing
issues from the long layoff were certainly to blame in the beginning. But
ex-manager Bobby Valentine and ex-hitting coach Dave Magadan each noted that he
never developed a rhythm. So much so, that Valentine sat Ellsbury in favor of Che-Hsuan Lin in the season finale against
the Yankees. Upon his return in July, Ellsbury belted just four home runs and drove in 23 runs, well short of his 2011 standards.

To put it in
perspective, Carl Crawford batted .282 with three homers and 19 RBIs in just 31
games.

Ellsbury had enough games in July, August, and September to get into a
groove and validate his accolades from 2011. Maybe he'll regain that MVP-type
form in a healthy full season, but he'll need to be consistent.

How can you say Daniel Nava is not the answer in left field because he's near the end of his career, age wise, when the free agents you mentioned are all in the same age range or older? Why spend big money when you have the talent in-house? According to my calculations, Torii Hunter is seven years older, and you recommend him over Nava? Hunter's stats do not make him a better player than Nava. His age makes him more of a gamble! Same with the other players you mentioned. They are no younger than Nava, so to me, they would definitely not be worth the investment. Nava could field the position until someone like Bradley is ready.
–Richard Hutchins, Bennington, Vt.

I never said Daniel
Nava
was at the end of his career. But I noted that he may have reached his
ceiling — given his talent at this age — and would be better served as an
alternative off the bench.

There's a disparity
between Nava's level of talent and that of Torii Hunter. For years, Hunter has
been a perennial All-Star at the plate and one of the top defensive outfielders
in the game.

While Nava is
valuable contributor, he doesn't have an All-Star pedigree. He's a decent
defensive outfielder who is capable of stepping in when necessary and finding
ways to get on base.

At 37, Hunter is
far from his elite status. But he still has a track record of success and
receives the benefit of the doubt.

Any chance the Red Sox, or any other MLB team will consider
signing Daisuke Matsuzaka next year? I think they should since he's still
recovering from Tommy John surgery and could even come out of the bullpen if
needed. And, since Farrell is manager now, he could help, seeing he was the
pitching coach when Dice-K was really good. And any chance [Jason Varitek] will
be moved down into the dugout as a coach, even though he's in the front office?
I really hope you reply, he's my favorite pitcher and catcher!

–Ben Clemens, Victor, N.Y.

I highly doubt the
Red Sox will re-sign Daisuke Matsuzaka, especially since he's pitched so
inconsistently over the course of his career in Boston.

If Matsuzaka elects
to stay in the majors as opposed to returning to Japan, I bet another team will
gamble on him. But pitching away from the bright lights of Boston could bode
well for the hurler.

As for your
question about Jason Varitek, I think it all depends on whether Gary Tuck
exercises his option to return as a bullpen coach and catching instructor. Tuck
is weighing personal and professional reasons about whether to return.

Should Tuck leave,
it's possible that Varitek would step in. His knowledge of Boston's pitching
staff as well as Tuck's coaching style would make for a seamless transition in
that role.

Please tell Carl Crawford to stop talking. So far,
that's all we have seen in Boston and now L.A. for a mere $142 million. Ask Carl,
if you combine your last three seasons, 2010 with Tampa Bay and 2011-12 with Boston, What
would your new contract look like? What would you expect to get paid? Would you
still be blaming the Boston fans and coaches for not coddling you? What if your
struggles and injuries continue in L.A.?
–Shane Andarowski, Brooklyn

Give Crawford
a break. Sure, he fell completely short of matching the expectations that come
with signing a $142 million contract because of struggles and injuries, but
he's not blasting Boston.

He should receive
some respect for attempting to play through the pain of his troublesome elbow.
Even with the elbow issues, Crawford offered optimism in 31 games, batting .282
with three home runs and 19 RBIs.

Crawford is simply
admitting that he should've undergone Tommy John surgery earlier instead of
succumbing to the pressure of fans and trying to fight through. He got caught
up in trying to appease fans.

Was it a foolish
decision? Yes. But fans shouldn't vilify him for attempting to show some heart.

Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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